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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Rank Hath No Privilege

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

My school is relatively laid back when it comes to rank.

Oh, sure, we do rank testing and promotions and whatnot like most people do. It just doesn't seem to be something we emphasize very much. It's important but, y'know, not IMPORTANT-important.

Group picture after a rank test at my teacher's school. As you can see... SERIOUS. BUSINESS.

I know that this is different in other schools and systems. All of us are hierarchical to some degree but some of y'all really emphasize that hierarchy.

Yeah, that's not my school, and it's definitely not generally the way folks I've trained with in my style (and related styles) generally are. Given that our art is propagated mostly by seminars and camps versus formal progression in martial arts schools, we aren't as conscious of rank. We can't be so... choosy... about which ranks we train with, and when.

Rank - or lack thereof - doesn't prevent you from being invited to learn some pretty advanced material when a teacher comes through town.   Nobody will insist that you're too low a rank to try to learn it - in fact, you'll be encouraged to try to learn it the best you can.

Additionally, it is not uncommon at many seminars I've attended for the only people to be wearing any indicator of rank at all are the people teaching the seminar. Heck, there's plenty of times where there's no rank indicators at all on anyone.

It's really cool when a very experienced, highly ranked person pairs up with you in a seminar.  You end up learning extra, just by having this person work with you.  I love it when that happens to me.

We also don't have any tradition - again, just in my branch of the art and what I've been exposed to - that confers any special ritual of deference to higher ranked people outside of just listening what they have to teach us about what we do.  There is no special spot to enter the mat.  No special dressing room.  No exclusive rights that other students don't generally have.  Our lower level students defer to our experience in practice, but that's about it.  They are encouraged to ask questions and even challenge something that doesn't seem to make sense to them on occasion.

As Dayang Tatlo (Female 3rd Black), I may have a lot more responsibility but definitely not any special privileges.

Especially when I'm with my teacher. My job is to help him out when he's teaching, which includes taking people who aren't as experienced off to the side and helping them work on a simpler part of whatever we're working on. My job is to know our curriculum as well as he does and to be able to teach any part of it when asked to do so. I make myself available to my teacher to work on new material and to help him revise what we do.

Sometimes I actually get to work on "high level" stuff.

I get more work, not more privilege.

Rank literally doesn't mean anything more than a measure of progress for a student, so it's really not something that dominates our thinking the way that it seems to dominate other martial arts schools, styles and systems.

As a relatively egalitarian person, that suits me very well.

I wish I knew where I found this a long time ago on social media... but I saved it because it's so true.

So tell me about how rank has privileges, if any, in your style, if any.  What extra responsibilities do higher ranking people have? Let us know in the comments!

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